TERRITORIAL DISPUTES

Beijing downplays row over passport map

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 4:41am

Beijing said yesterday that people should not read too much into the placement of a map in new passports that depicts claims to disputed maritime territory, after the US said it would raise concerns with Beijing over the issue.

The Philippines and Vietnam have condemned the new microchip-equipped passports, saying the map they incorporate violates their national sovereignty by marking disputed waters as Chinese territory.

The Philippine foreign office said it would not stamp the new mainland passports and instead would stamp a separate visa application form "to avoid the Philippines being misconstrued as legitimising" Beijing's claim

India, which also claims two Himalayan regions shown as Chinese territory on the map, is responding by issuing visas stamped with its own version of the borders.

"The aim of China's new electronic passports is to strengthen its technological abilities and make it convenient for Chinese citizens to enter or leave the country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

"The issue of the maps in China's new passports should not be read too much into. China is willing to remain in touch with relevant countries and promote the healthy development of the exchange of people between China and the outside world."

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US had concerns about the map causing "tension and anxiety" between countries in the South China Sea.

Yang Yi, a spokesman for the mainland State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said in Beijing yesterday it had long been the mainland's position that the mainland and Taiwan belonged to one China and the issuing of the new passport did not represent any change in policy.

Reuters, Associated Press